10 Tips on How to Trim Your Cat’s Claws

Knowing how to trim your cat’s claws makes both your lives easier

Trimming your cat’s claws can be a challenging venture. But it doesn’t have to be.

Depending on their activity levels, indoor and older cats may need their claws trimmed to prevent overgrowth and getting caught in things since they’re not always scratching and climbing wood trees. It also minimizes damage to other pets, us and our furniture.

There have been times when I’ve trimmed Shorty and Kodi’s claws every 2-3 weeks to get them used to the habit. With lots of scratching posts and lots of play, I now only do it every few months as needed. (You’ll see in the video below that they are indeed used to it and seem to be thinking, “Here we go again. Let’s just get this over with.”)

As responsible cat guardians, we have to allow our cats to be cats and that means letting them use their claws as they naturally would to play, mark their territory, exercise, stretch and remove the outer layer of their claws.

Here are 10 tips to help ease the process of trimming their claws.

  1. Start early in their life. Handle their paws as kittens and press gently on their pads to extract the claw so they get used to it. You can begin trimming their claws after about 1-2 months. If you’re handling an adult cat who’s not used to it, start slowly by touching their paws when you’re petting them to get them used to the feeling, and put the trimmers close by where they can see them. If you only bring out the trimmers when nail trimming starts, they will only associate them with stress. When they feel calm with having their paws handled, you can try trimming one or two claws but then resume petting so minimize stress.
  2. Use the proper nail trimmers. Human nail clippers have a straight edge that may cause splintering of the claw. Use a rounded scissor type and replace them as soon as they seem dull.
  3. Trim just the tips. Like humans, cats have a kwik in their claw that is pink and it hurts and bleeds if it’s cut. Avoid going anywhere near the kwik by just trimming the tip.
  4. Wait until they’re calm, asleep or just waking up and make sure your cat isn’t in full-on predatory mode when you try to corral them or else YOU’LL be the prey.
  5. Find the right method for you and your cat. I find that hovering over them allows your cat to know that you’re in control, but this may not work for you. Others prefer holding them on their back, the burrito technique, or getting some help, in layered clothing. You’ll see lots of methods in the video below.
  6. Stay calm. A cat can read your energy and will respond accordingly so if you’re scared, they will be too but if you make no big deal about it, hopefully they won’t either.
  7. Treats. Connect the activity to praise and treats so they’ll come to expect the reward.
  8. Check the back claws before cutting. Depending on the activity of your cat and surface area they play on, your cat’s back claws usually don’t have to be cut. Just check before you put them through too much stress.
  9. Just do a few at a time. Many cats will be ok to sit still to have a few claws cut but once they protest, it’s best to leave them alone until they calm down again so that both the cat and you avoid feeling traumatized.
  10. Take them to the vet. If all else fails, schedule an appointment with your vet. But even then, your cat won’t enjoy it but at least you don’t have to deal with it, and they are professionals who will handle your cat properly.

If you have any other tips, please leave them in the comment section and hopefully we’ll all end up with cats who don’t mind having their claws trimmed at all. And of course, have lots of scratching surfaces available in your home and you can watch my video, How to get your cat to stop scratching the furniture for more tips.

Different methods work for different families so find what works for you and with some luck, this chore may be easier than you think.


2 thoughts on “10 Tips on How to Trim Your Cat’s Claws

  1. My two cats are absolute sweethearts about this topic. I lay them on their backs over my legs and they stay quiet while I push the tips out with one hand and cut with the other one. It’s a whole ritual: claw cleaning with a baby wipes, tips trimming and nail caps gluing… and they let me do it all. They don’t “love” it, but they are used to it. I’ve been doing it their whole life

  2. I am able to occasionally trim Rose & Pearl’s front claws. I cannot get the back ones).. Vet’s office does it now. They told me Pearl’s nails were VERY thick – “a sign of arthritis”. Rose is an AVID scratchy pole lover. Pearl loves the scratchy card board.

Leave a Reply